Broadway producer Max Weitzenhoffer lived up to the producing nickname of "angel" Nov. 2 with a $5 million gift to the University of Oklahoma's College of Fine Arts and its Musical Theatre Program.
The two-time Tony Award-winning producer for The Will Rogers Follies and Dracula (who has also produced many Off Broadway and London plays) made one of the three largest individual donations in the university's history.
Weitzenhoffer is a native of Oklahoma City and a 1962 graduate of the University of Oklahoma School of Drama. The donation announcement was made jointly by the producer and university president David L. Boren, Nov. 2.
In 1994, Weitzenhoffer, an adjunct instructor in the School of Drama, assumed the voluntary role of Producing Director of the university's Musical Theatre Program and started the Weitzenhoffer Foundation Musical Theatre Fund to bring in guest artists to work with students.
Through the musical theatre initiative at the School of Drama, students have worked with professionals and helped develop new musicals, including the 1995 world premiere of Jack, about John F. Kennedy, and this season's The Great Unknown, a work in progress by Bill Hauptman (Big River) with music and lyrics by Jim Wann (of Pump Boys and Dinettes). The show is being produced in association with Dodger Endemol Productions. Weitzenhoffer had already endowed the Weitzenhoffer Scholarship for Technical Theatre and donated funding for the renovation of the university's studio theatre, which is named in his honor. He also endowed the Dr. Frances R. Weitzenhoffer Memorial Fellowship in Art History, in honor of his wife, an author-art historian, who died in 1991.
University president Boren said the gift puts the university over its year 2000 goal of $250 million in its ambitious Reach for Excellence fundraising campaign. The campaign will continue.
-- By Kenneth Jones